Harnessing the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of local communities has the potential to enhance conservation planning in developing regions. Marine protected areas (MPAs) that incorporate traditional beliefs about reef tenure are generally more successful in reaching conservation goals and ensuring the participation of local fishermen on vulnerable tropical reef systems. Fiji possesses a unique system of traditional reef management in which local clans or villages, called mataqali, control individual units of a reef, known as qoliqoli, and make independent management decisions based on traditional beliefs and conservation concerns. This is an example of a system, known as customary marine tenure, which has attracted interest from conservation scientists hoping to set up MPAs in vulnerable regions. As one example of this grassroots participation, Nagigi village on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu has expressed interest in setting up an MPA in part of its qoliqoli because of concerns about overfishing. In response to this interest, we took a two-pronged approach to assessing Nagigi's fishery status and conservation needs, first conducting a fishery-independent species survey using destructive sampling and then focusing on fisheries targets identified through fisher interviews. These interviews allowed us to identify heavily targeted species, assess villagers' understanding of reef dynamics over 30 or 40 years of fisheries expansion, and evaluate village support and expectations for a proposed conservation program. Based on our findings we recommend a temporary closure to be in effect for at least three years, allowing one of the more important fishery targets, Lethrinus harak (Forsskål, 1775; Lethrinidae), to complete at least one generation within the reserve. The methodology of matching the proposed marine protected area with the life histories and ecologies of heavily targeted species identified through fisherman and -woman interviews can offer a template for future conservation projects that seek to synthesize indigenous peoples' needs and knowledge with ecological data.